At the time of writing the coffin of Her Majesty the Queen is lying in state in Westminster Hall and many thousands of people are queuing in order to be able to pay their last respects. Special services have been held all over the country in the last week and at First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church we held a short service of prayer and reflection on Friday, 9th December. An edited audio recording of the service can be heard by clicking on the video above. Allen Yarr is the organist.
Below are some images from the lying in state in Westminster Hall.
Earlier in the week, on Monday, 12th September a very moving service of thanksgiving for the life of the Queen was held in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh. Below are some images from that occasion.
Services of thanksgiving for the life of the Queen were also held in Belfast and Cardiff.
I shall not die, but live, and shall the works of God discover. The Lord hath me chastised sore, but not to death giv’n over. O set ye open unto me the gates of righteousness; Then will I enter into them, and I the Lord will bless. This is the gate of God, by it the just shall enter in. Thee will I praise, for thou me heard’st and hast my safety been.
Translation of Psalm 118 v.17-21 which was sung in Scots Gaelic by Karen Matheson at the service in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh.
To accompany our service of worship conducted from Oxford we have a few views of various parts of the university and its environs.
The service features readings, hymns and prayers as well as poems relating to Oxford. As part of the service we are very pleased to have Graham Murphy read Duns Scotus’s Oxford, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Oxford, by C.S. Lewis.
Readings: Psalm 139 read by Rev Dr David Steers Duns Scotus’s Oxford by Gerard Manley Hopkins, read by Graham Murphy Oxford by C.S. Lewis, read by Graham Murphy Oxford (extract) by T. Lovatt Williams, read by Sue Steers
Hymns: ‘The King of Love my shepherd is’, Alfie McClelland (Clough) ‘From all that dwell below the skies’, Allen Yarr (Dunmurry) ‘Lord of all hopefulness’, John Strain (Ballee) ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’, Laura Patterson (Downpatrick) ‘In Christ Alone’, John Strain (Ballee) ‘It is well with my soul’, Allen Yarr (Dunmurry)
In the service you will see: Radcliffe Camera, Brasenose College, River Thames (Isis), Harris Manchester College, Mansfield College, New College, Christ Church (Peckwater Quad, Tom Quad, Memorial Garden), Christ Church Meadow, Old English Longhorn Cattle, Divinity School, Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre, Christ Church Cathedral, University Church, Martyrs Memorial.
Travelling across the Irish Sea from Belfast to Liverpool I was struck by the tranquility and the blue-ness of the sea. I filmed the scene for a couple of minutes, partly in the hope of seeing a pod of dolphins swim past, but found it strangely calming. So with sections of hat film to start and close this short video I put together a few Sea-born Reflections:
Click on the video above to see the Reflections.
Conducted by the Rev Dr David Steers, First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry.
Hymns: Will your anchor hold in the storms of life played by Laura Patterson (organist Downpatrick) and O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness played on the piano by Allen Yarr (organist Dunmurry).
Your enjoyment of the world is never right, till every morning you awake in Heaven: see yourself in your Father’s palace; and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as celestial joys: having such a reverend esteem of all, as if you were among the angels.
One of the beauties of Dunmurry is not just the gardens and grounds that surround the church but the variety of animal and bird life that lives there. Louise Steers has been busy filming many of the birds, animals and insects that live there and we have two videos that consist of Louise’s films and photographs of them accompanied by music provided by John Strain on the organ at Ballee. Among the animals you can expect to see in Part One are robins, blue tits, blackbirds, a thrush, grey squirrels, a mouse, ladybirds, a speckled wood butterfly and a peacock butterfly.
Click on the video above to see some of the birds, animals and insects that live in the gardens round the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry. Medley played by John Strain on the organ at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.
The second of two films featuring some of the birds, animals and insects that live in the gardens round the First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry. All pictures are by Louise. In this case the accompaniment is by John Strain on the organ at Ballee playing God speaks to us in bird and song, For the beauty of the earth, and God who made the earth.
Click on the video above to see Part Two. The video includes forty-two images featuring: blue tit, female chaffinch, male chaffinch. starling, thrush, shieldbug, lacewing, bumblebee, carder bumblebee, hoverfly, ladybird, peacock butterfly, speckled wood butterfly, grey squirrel, hedgehog, wood pigeon, blackbird, magpie, fledgling blue tit, male bullfinch, great tit, robin.
Louise also has her own animation channel (InkLightning), which includes animation like this short video:
Back in September 2017 I started to look at pew numbers (click here to see that post), particularly looking at Ballee and Downpatrick. Ballee is interesting because numbers like this
were impressively painted on each box pew but removed when the interior was refurbished before the First World War. Since they re-used the timber in the reconstruction of the new interior if you know where to look you can still find the old numbers in odd places like the one above, which is on the inside of a cupboard door. The Ballee numbers, where they still exist, are much larger and emphatic than most pew numbers.
Downpatrick only has pew numbers upstairs in the galleries, and Clough and Dunmurry for instance, don’t have any numbers at all. In modern times the idea of numbering pews is not something that anyone would take up, but for hundreds of years it was essential. Pews were occupied via pew rents, the families who rented them had an entirely proprietorial attitude to the pew or half pew which they paid for. This is the origin of the sense – which many people still have – of a certain pew being ‘their’ pew. In many cases, generations ago, this was quite literally true. In more recent times large urban congregations that had prominent preachers would tell those who rented pews to be in place fifteen minutes before the service began or else their pew would be given to some of the queue of potential hearers formed up outside.
But I have had a look out for pew numbers recently and here is a selection.
First of all a nice example of a ceramic pew number from Killinchy. The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Killinchy was built in 1846 and I have no reason to doubt that this sequence of numbers all date from that period:
Older examples, which I would suspect date from the opening of the church in 1783, are the engraved brass numbers affixed to the oak doors of the pews in First Church, Rosemary Street, Belfast:
In Dublin Unitarian Church the numbers are painted and again will date from the opening of the church, in this case in 1863.
You can see the care and precision that has gone into these numbers with their three dimensional gold shields.
All Souls’ Church, Belfast dates from 1896, a building designed by the architect Walter Planck. But the pews are much older and the numbers will be as old as the pews. Again these are brass with the numbers engraved on the surface and picked out in black paint. They still look sharp and clear. The pews in All Souls’ date from 1871. In that year the interior of the Second Congregation, also on Rosemary Street, Belfast, was entirely re-modelled and the box pews replaced with modern open pews, possibly re-using some of the timber from the old pews. This would have been a move as bold and radical in 1871 as a church hauling out its pews today and replacing them with chairs.
The numbers must date from Rosemary Street times because they never were an entirely complete sequence, a tendency which has become more noticeable as more pews have been removed in the last decade.
In all these churches a lot of effort has gone into supplying bespoke numbers for the pews. Times change and their importance has waned but each example speaks to us eloquently of a particular time and place.
On Saturday, 11th June members of Dunmurry along with members of First Belfast and All Souls’ Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches enjoyed a great visit to to Dublin. We were made very welcome by the Unitarian congregation on St Stephen’s Green and treated to an excellent tour of sites connected with the roots of Protestant Dissent in Dublin by Rory Delany.
Rory has a fund of knowledge about the history of Dublin and of the different strands of Dissent in the city, which largely date back to the period of Oliver Cromwell. We were taken on a fascinating walk around some of both the familiar and not so familiar parts of Dublin and all of us gained a deep insight into the way Dissent – Independency – Presbyterianism – Unitarianism – developed in the city and the contribution made by members of the Dissenting churches to the history of the city.
Rory gave us an outline of the plan before we set off. The Unitarian Church was built in 1863 by the congregation of Strand Street and four years later it was joined by the congregation of Eustace Street. These two congregations contained many of the leading merchants in the city, families which had played an important part in civic life for decades, and were groups which were rooted in at least four churches which had maintained a continuity of existence from Cromwellian and Puritan times onwards.
Perhaps the most direct stream of religious life which fed in to the modern church on St Stephen’s Green was that of Wood Street. The first minister connected with this congregation is usually said to be John Owen, a leading Puritan divine who came to Dublin as chaplain to Oliver Cromwell and later became dean of Christ Church, Oxford during the Commonwealth. The congregation may date back to Elizabethan times but the first minister in Wood Street itself is thought to be Stephen Charnock who came to Dublin as chaplain to Henry Cromwell in 1655. A fellow of Trinity College, Dublin he was a ‘lecturer’ at St Werburgh’s and returned to England following the Restoration in 1660.
Wood Street was the scene of the ministry of Daniel Williams for approximately 20 years. Welsh-born he moved to London in 1687 and became the leading figure in English Dissent, establishing the library that bears his name to this day. Other distinguished and sometimes controversial ministers to serve this congregation include Joseph Boyse, Thomas Emlyn, John Abernethy and James Duchal (click on the links where shown for more information on this blog) . The congregation moved to Strand Street in 1764.
Samuel Winter, a key figure in Cromwellian Ireland and Provost of Trinity College, was also preacher at St Nicholas’ Church from 1650 and had as colleague from 1656 Samuel Mather, the son of Richard Mather (for more on his family and their connection with Toxteth click here) a leading Puritan in England, New England and Ireland. Samuel Mather was a lecturer at Christ Church and a Fellow of Trinity College. He died in 1671 and was buried in St Nicholas’ Church. He was later succeeded in the ministry by his brother Nathaniel, by which time the congregation had built their own meeting house on New Row.
Eventually New Row moved to Eustace Street in 1728. Nearby was a Quaker meeting-house and Rory told us that one of the Quakers said of the Eustace Street meeting-house that ‘When there is so much vanity without, there won’t be much religion within’. But it is actually a very well-proportioned and elegant building, although eighteenth-century Quakers had their own view of such things. Having said that what survives of Eustace Street today is only the facade and that is not shown off to best effect by the banners hung outside by the Ark Theatre group that use the new building.
Eustace Street was also the location of the first ministry of James Martineau (click here to read more about James Martineau on this blog).
We had a brief look at the City Hall, built originally as the Royal Exchange in 1779 by the precursor of the Chamber of Commerce. The merchants who made up the membership of the Chamber of Commerce included a disproportionate number of Protestant Dissenters, and of these a large proportion were members of one of the three Presbyterian (Unitarian) congregations in Dublin. Indeed, Rory told us, a majority of the Presidents of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce between 1785 and 1870 were trustees or members of the congregations which went on to form the St Stephens Green congregation.
It was a wonderful day full of interest and we are all indebted to Rory for sharing his considerable knowledge with us.
Our two most recent videos involve both celebrating and nourishing the natural environment. Our first video contains a ‘Prayer for the Glory of the Outward World’, which is based on one found in Orders of Worship, and includes ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ played on the piano by Allen Yarr, church organist. It features some of the lovely plants growing around First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church and it can be seen here:
Many of our churches celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and at Ballee and Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches special services were followed by the planting of trees to mark the occasion, a Mountain Ash at Ballee and a Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’ at Clough. This is part of the Queen’s ‘Green Canopy’ which aims to plant trees to enhance the natural environment. We are grateful to everyone who took part, to Sue Steers FRSA who led the service and to John Strain and Jack Steers who provided the music. The video can be seen here:
Recorded for the Sunday after Easter including reflection on the dawn service held on the village green by Dunmurry Churches Together. With Jack Steers on the trumpet playing Easter Hymn (Jesus Christ is risen today). With a reading from Luke ch.4 v.13-35. Click on the video above to see this reflection.
Lord of the Emmaus Road…walk with us Lord, listen to our story, and let us hear your story, straight from the empty tomb.
A couple of short acts of worship to mark Holy Week, 2022:
Some music for Palm Sunday. Four pieces plus an introduction played by the organists of Dunmurry and Ballee for a Palm Sunday service:
Hymns played by Allen Yarr (Dunmurry) and John Strain (Ballee).
How deep the Father’s love, introduction played by Allen Yarr. King of glory, King of Peace, played by John Strain. Ride on, ride on, in majesty, played by Allen Yarr. When I survey the wondrous Cross, played by Allen Yarr. Now thank we all our God, played by John Strain. Filmed at First Presbyterian (NS) Church, Dunmurry and Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.
Image: ‘The Entry of Christ into Jerusalem’ (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti. A fresco in the south transept of the Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.
A short prayer and meditation for Good Friday:
Rev Dr David Steers, First Dunmurry (NS) Presbyterian Church. (Source: John Pritchard ‘The Second Intercessions Handbook’. Images the crypt and a side altar (also at the top of this page) at the Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool).
The Service of Installation at Dunmurry on Saturday, 26th March was a wonderful occasion and thank you again to everyone who took part and everyone in the Church who made the event possible. You can read a full report of the service with pictures on the First Dunmurry blog here.
There is a full audio recording of the service:
and also an online recording of the Statement of Principles and Objects:
Unfortunately the Moderator of Presbytery, Rev Stephen Reain-Adair, was prevented from being present by a positive test for Covid. We wish him a full recovery and thank the Very Rev Robert McKee who stood in as Moderator at the last minute.
The flowers in the Hall reflected the colours of the national flag of Ukraine and thank you to Elma McDowell and her team for their work in the Hall and the Church.
A retiring collection for the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal has raised £460.